ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Businesses near the Xcel Energy Center are eagerly waiting for the end NHL lockout, but on Thursday, they were handed even more bad news.
The NHL announced the cancellation of regular-season hockey games – through Oct. 24 – for the second time in seven years.
“It’s horrifying; we’re going to lose businesses,” said Kevin Geisen, co-owner of the Eagle Street Grille next to the Xcel Energy Center. “People are going to lose their jobs. In this economy, we can’t afford it.”
The league wiped out 82 games from Oct. 11 to Oct. 24. That includes three Minnesota Wild home games that would’ve been played in St. Paul.
“We’re in business here because they do business over there,” said Greg Awada, owner of Zamboni’s Pizza and Pub. “So when they’re not in business, we’re kind of left on an island here, and it’s not good.”
Awada says the summer months have been tough and they were looking forward to a strong start in October. He says hockey fans account for 25 percent of business.
At Eagle Street Grille, Geisen says Wild fans account for 50 percent of business. After losing the preseason games, they had to reduce their staff’s hours and shifts. Now they’re going to be left with some tough decisions to make.
“My fear is that we’re going to lose staff just because they need to go somewhere where they can make money,” said Geisen. “It’s a delicate, painful balance.”
Geisen says he and his business partner barely survived in 2004 when the entire season was lost due to the lockout.
“We laid off 95 percent of our staff we worked seven days a week,” said Geisen. “The difference now, we’re both married, we have children, and our restaurant is about five times the size it used to be.”
He says the only glimmer of hope he has are some concerts coming in November and other events in October.
“We’re built to live off of the Xcel, and when that shuts down, we shut down,” said Geisen.
The NHL and the union are unable to decide how to divide $3 billion in hockey-related revenues.
There have been negotiations in recent days, but the sides have not gotten any closer to an agreement on core economic issues.